Battling the odds, divers from the Navy continued their search for more bodies on board submarine INS Sindhurakshak without any success but managed to open a second access to the sunken vessel during an overnight "challenging but critical" operation.
The rescue team had extricated badly charred bodies of five of the 18 personnel trapped in the craft yesterday after gruelling efforts as naval authorities voiced worst fears that others on board might have been incinerated too.
"The divers have gained a second access to the submarine late last night when they successfully prised open the rear escape hatch which was submerged below and jammed due to high temperature," a release from the Navy said, terming the operation as "challenging but critical."
Also, opening of the jammed forward escape hatch is being attempted for an entry to the front portion of the submarine, it said.
Sources said the Navy divers are carrying out the task of searching within the submarine by "feeling each inch" due to zero visibility within flooded compartments to locate the missing bodies and mark a probable route to be used for further rescue operations.
The identification of the five bodies recovered so far is being given high priority and all means including DNA profiling is being carried out, a Defence spokesman said.
Doctors at the state-run J J Hospital here have completed post-mortem on the bodies recovered from the submarine.
"DNA samples and dental marks have been taken (to ascertain identity)," said an official, adding all these will be sent for forensic analysis.
Doctors have opined that prima facie the cause of death was burning and drowning. However, other details will be known only after receiving the forensic report, the sources said.
The families of the victims have been accommodated in naval premises and are being regularly informed on all aspects of the ongoing search activities by specially formed family support teams of naval officers, sailors and members of Navy Wives Welfare Association.
Preliminary survey by reputed salvors is also in progress, the spokesperson said. 18 Navy personnel, including three officers, were onboard the Russia-made submarine when a devastating fire ripped through the frontline underwater craft following serial explosions Tuesday midnight.
The Navy has instituted a Board of Inquiry to probe the cause of the explosions and fire which is expected to submit its report within four weeks.
Mumbai Police have also registered a case of accidental death in connection with the worst peacetime tragedy suffered by the Navy.